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Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel | by Patrick Houlihan
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Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel

from the chapel's literature:

 

When the Loretto Chapel was completed, there was no way to access the choir loft, 22 feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

 

To find a solution to the problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Legend says on the ninth and final day of prayer, a man showed up at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself.

 

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.

 

The staircase has two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails -- only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

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Taken on July 19, 2006